About the PSAT and the SAT

The PSAT and the SAT both have two major components:

1) Reading + Writing & Language
2) Math

The order of sections on the SAT is always: Reading, Writing & Language, Math (no calculator), Math (with calculator), and the optional Essay. On both the PSAT and the SAT tests, the Reading and Writing & Language components are scored separately (100–400), but are then combined into a single 200–800 scaled score.

The PSAT scale for English and Math are each 160–760. The SAT English and Math scales are both 200–800. The SAT Essay receives a total score of 6–24, which represents the total score of two readers grading three characteristics—reading, writing, and analysis—each on a scale of 1–4. The essay score stands alone and does not figure into either of the 200–800 scores.

PSAT and SAT Reading

The new SAT Reading Test has four single passages and one set of paired passages. Each passage or pair is 500–750 words in length and is accompanied by 10–11 questions. There are a total of 52 questions, and students have 65 minutes to finish. There are four distinct groupings (and several subgroupings) of question types that may be best understood with the acronym VEGA:

  • V = Vocabulary  (Vocabulary in Context)
  • E = Evidence    (Command of Evidence)
  • G = Graphics    (Graphical Analysis)
  • A = Analysis    (Specific Content Analysis)

PSAT and SAT Writing and Language

The SAT Writing and Language Test requires students to:

  • Select the most concise and/or accurate phrase or sentence to express a thought or opinion
  • Select the most apt description of a person, situation, or action
  • Reorganize, replace, or remove words within a sentence, or sentences within a paragraph
  • Identify appropriate conjunctions and logical connections between sentences and paragraphs
  • Identify agreeing parts of sentences—tense, mood, amount, and modifiers
  • Identify incorrect or unnecessary words, sentences, or clauses
  • Identify correct punctuation, including possessive cases, and overall passage structure

PSAT and SAT Math

The SAT Math Test incorporates a limited variety of question types and subjects. While most math falls into the algebra and data categories, many questions involve “real life” situations that require a thorough understanding of the concept being tested and the equation that best expresses the solution. “Passport to Advanced Math” and “Additional Topics in Math” questions require some familiarity with geometry and some limited understanding of trigonometry (SOHCAHTOA). The PSAT has a lower level of difficulty.

SAT Essay

While relatively few colleges require the SAT Essay, a high score can be quite a differentiator when your application is compared against others.

The SAT Essay requires students to read a lengthy source text and evaluate the author’s style, structure, and success in creating a convincing argument. Students are graded by two readers, each awarding three subscores of 1–4 that combine to give a students a total score ranging from 6–24 points. The subscores are in reading, writing, and analysis. The Chyten Essay Method is both formulaic and creative. Simply follow the steps in this method and you’ll earn your highest possible score.

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